It was a quiet evening. The kind that leaves you wishing for words to fill the long silences. Kapil’s fingers tapped against the keys of the laptop hurriedly while Kripa sat a few feet away, holding herself tight as she juggled through some medical reports. They look tired, exhausting with the endlessness of their journey together.

“Do you think things will ever get easy?” she asked him, sounding defeated.

Kapil shook his head. “I guess,” he sounded unconvinced of his own words. “That’s all we can do, right? Hope for things to get better.”

Kripa nodded, before returning to going through the reports. There was something about them – something about how normal it had become for them to be engrossed in hospital visits, tests, and results that did not sit right with her. A medical condition becoming a normal was not the part of their plan.

Just then they heard the sound of her son, Parth, from the other room. A sound of alarm that made them rush inside. Once they reached inside, they saw their son sitting on the bed, playing with the toy they brought for him a few days back from the marketplace a few kilometres away.

“He likes it,” Kapil said, smiling.

“He does!” there was a comforting assurance in Kripa’s voice.

They walked closer to their son slowly. It was a thing of strange, inexplicable beauty for them to see their son’s attention fixated on something. That was one of the trickier parts of getting comfortable with his medical condition – his inability to find something exciting enough to keep him hooked.

He was three-years-old now. A few months back he was diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum. The doctors were still trying to establish where he stood on the spectrum, but they were sure that his growth into adolescence would be a little different than the normative idea of a child’s pace of learning things.

Kapil and Kripa had since then tried to confront this with all the reserves of resilience that they had. They had become quieter in the process, but remained stoic through these months. There were moments of vulnerability – both shared, and in isolation – but it only paved way for them to be stronger as a team, as a support system to their son.

As he played with the toy intently now, they held each other by the arm. Their eyes turned teary, thinking of how this simple moment of their child finding something enjoyable meant more to them than they would have imagined when he was born three years back. It had been a long, often tiring journey. The kind that you cannot go ahead and explain to people who have never experienced something like this.

Experiences like these can only be felt, not understood. The little frustrations; the fear of uncertainty: anticipation of each day that was marred with the scariest of possibilities. It was nothing like the life they had imagined for themselves, but it was the hand that life had handed them.

Parth turned his face towards them, meanwhile. His eyes sharp but pale, lips solidified into an expression of indifference. He saw them closely, as they wiped their tears and crawled towards him slowly so that they do not alarm him in any way. Parth’s soft arms reached out to them as he made a gentle cooing sound.

Kapil and Kripa looked at each other ecstatic. This was the first time that he had made a sound that summed like an expression – an interaction that he initiated. They kept looking at him lovingly, before he curled his lips into a sombre smile. A smile that brightened the core of his eyes briefly.

Kripa tucked her arm under Kapil’s, tears of joy rolling down her cheeks. Their son had communicated with them for the first time. The cooing sound, the smile. It was the first step that the doctors had been talking about for weeks now; the first step they were slowly getting convinced of being just a hollow hope.

They embraced each other jubilantly as Parth continued to smile. In that moment there was something that pierced right through the months of fear, discomfort, and mental exhaustion that they had gone through as a couple. This was a win. A little, but significant win that meant the world to them in this little moment of joy.

By Rachit Raj

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